Insta-Famous, or the Anxiety of Influence

Fashion editors’ disdain toward bloggers is fueling the $1 billion influencer market.

Remember The Devil Wears Prada? In the 2006 movie, an eager Anne Hathaway’s dream is to work for high-fashion magazine Runway—despite having to answer to its tyrannical editor.

If the film were written today, it’d be very different.

Print magazines long told readers what was hot, what they should buy and what they should wear. They were the authoritative tastemakers and had the ultimate say in what was “in.” Readers blindly followed their pages’ directives.

But those days are over. Print has lost its luster. Magazines are expensive to produce, while sales of both ads and issues are on the decline. And media consumption habits have changed; digital is the clear winner.

Social media has given rise to influencers plugged in to what today’s fashion watchers want, when they want it. Today, The Devil Wears Prada would depict an eager fashionista blazing her own trail to exert influence via social media on YouTube, Instagram or Snapchat.

A new reign

Traditional publishers need to rethink their revenue models–fast. According to a joint report by Fashion & Beauty Monitor and Econsultancy earlier this year, The Rise of Influencers, almost 60 percent of fashion and beauty brands have an influencer marketing strategy in place, while a further 21 percent plan to invest in it over the next 12 months.

Disdain remains

This is a sea change. While global fashion houses from Louis Vuitton to Gucci increasingly embrace influencers as their ambassadors, fashion editors from elite publications such as Vogue continue to express contempt for fashion bloggers.

Vogue.com fashion news editor Alessandra Codinha recently commented about bloggers at Milan Fashion Week:

Rather than a celebration of any actual style, it seems to be all about turning up, looking ridiculous, posing, twitching in your seat as you check your social media feeds, fleeing, changing, repeating … It’s all pretty embarrassing.

Embarrassing? Perhaps, but selfies make a mint.

Small screen, big money

Runways are still important, but people seem to be more inspired by seeing how influencers present fashion week and beauty trends.

Immediacy is part of the appeal. Do people want to read in the fall about next spring’s styles? Not really: They aren’t thinking that far ahead. Consumers want more instant, actionable advice. They want to know what to wear this week. Actually, more precisely, they want to know what to wear as they head out the door. They want to know what to wear six minutes from now, not six months from now.

Further, most fashion magazines have been slow to embrace diversity in the way that social media has. Today’s social influencers comprise a diverse population. The social world is more inclusive and reflective of the real world: Influencers show all kinds of looks, body types and skin colors. They populate the feeds of today’s youth with a range of styles.

Brands have noticed: H&M and Dove have featured transgender models. Kenneth Cole features Lauren Wasser, who has a prosthetic leg, and R.J. Mitte, Breaking Bad’s actor with cerebral palsy. Cover Girl just announced its first male model, 17-year-old YouTube phenom James Charles.

Basically it’s come down to this: Magazines feel like institutions, while influencers are real people, relatable individuals, virtual friends. We identify with and admire the influencers we chose. And we become loyal followers.

👀 + ❤ = 💰

Authenticity converts to trust. We feel like they know these influencers. We come to trust digital heroes and take their advice. This translates into monetizable empires.

Traditional editors once got the perks and exclusive access. Now the extravagant stays at beach mansions go to influencers. The sums are staggering. And not just for the fashion influencers like the Kardashians (who famously promoted Sugar Bear vitamins)–Logan Paul spent one day filming a Dunkin’ Donuts commercial, for which he got paid $200,000. He’s only 21.

Traditional publishers’ toxic attitude toward the rising generation of digital influencers is only further fanning the flames for influencer marketing. Rather than meeting influencers with condescension, publishers and influencers should work better together to support brands’ strategic goals and objectives.

Where do we go?

Editors and influencers need to work together to help brands tell their stories in different but supportive ways. Publications should investigate trends. And influencers can support the custom advertising deals publishers are selling to brands.

In general, publishers still have something very special with their books, and they should feature influencers in their editorial content. Influencers will share images of the print publication and link to the digital counterpart. That way everybody wins.

James Nord is CEO of influencer marketing platform Fohr Card.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.